£580k ‘wasted’ on uneaten NHS Tayside hospital meals

Chef Stuart Prior stirring a pot of soup at Ninewells Hospital.

NHS Tayside has “wasted” more than half-a-million pounds on uneaten meals since 2013.

The cash-strapped health board has spent at least £100,000 in each of the last four full financial years on food which ended up in the bin.

Since 2013-14, an estimated £580,913 has gone on uneaten dishes.

In the worst year, roughly one in 13 meals was thrown away, costing the organisation an average of £437 a day.

Surveys are carried out at all NHS Tayside inpatient sites on a random basis, usually twice per week, measuring waste from one midday meal and one evening meal each week.

Audit Scotland requires all NHS boards to have systems in place to monitor food waste and, in particular, to ensure the percentage of meals issued and unserved does not exceed 10%.

NHS Tayside remains within the threshold but has seen an increase of about 2% from 5.55% in 2013-14 to 7.43% last year.

North East region MSP Bill Bowman said the cost of wasted food was further evidence of the health board’s inefficiency. “I am sure there are more efficient and community-based uses for it, instead of disposing of it all at the end of a shift,” he said.

“NHS Tayside is facing unprecedented challenges to hospital and primary care.

“It has a massive savings gap and is expected to be £5.6 million in the red by the end of March.”

He added that “£100,000 or more a year would go a long way towards paying for staff, maintaining the estate, or allowing scheduled surgeries over the festive period”.

A spokeswoman for NHS Tayside said the organisation had introduced a range of improvements which have resulted in a reduction in food waste in the last six months.

She said: “We take the nutrition and hydration of our patients very seriously and our catering staff work extremely hard to prepare a wide range of meals every day which are nutritionally balanced and cater for individual patients’ dietary requirements.

“We are committed to reducing food waste and our catering services staff continually monitor and review patient meals across NHS Tayside.

“We have introduced a range of improvements to working practices and procedures and we have already seen a reduction in food waste in the last six months.”